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So Johnson & Johnson’s Canadian division’s just launched a new Stayfree campaign that I found out about when a Toronto reporter contacted me for an article she was writing. The campain is a series of viral youtube videos that simulate a date with one of three archetypal ‘Mr. Rights’, segue into a product testing situation, and conclude with an offer of a coupon for a free pack of pads.
Now, you can’t argue with free stuff, and the viral nature of the campaign is a good hook to try and get women who have brand loyalty but who might be persuaded to swap, but I think it’s the pads market going for tampon users. A virtual date with attractive thirty-something guys with careers, skills and hobbies? That’s the top half of the 18-34 demographic and I’m pretty sure I remember reading we’re mostly tampon users, though a lot of people have swapped to reusable menstrual cups, so I think on that front these ads aren’t going to work. They’ve already got a couple of things working against them, and only the free stuff in their favour.
Then there’s the length of those ads – two-and-a-half minutes of talking nonstop and the woman’s just nodding? I ramble on about menstruation, but I do let people get a word in edgeways.
Taking the ads as a whole, the ‘I’m on a horse’ Old Spice ad surreal shift to product testing mid date is funny, and the fact that it is so much of a cliché is in keeping with the new ‘tongue in cheek’ ad style, but the message is all wrong. It’s interesting that comedy femcare ads are happening now (this is the third big comedy campaign after Mother Nature and the role reversal Kotex ones, and the nth viral…). I may have no show left to do soon because I’ve parodied femcare ads for the past five years and now they’re parodying themselves. Maybe they’ve been reading my zine. Still though, I wish they’d stop making the same old mistakes. Periods don’t need to be invisible, they don’t need to be negative, and they don’t stand alone – they’re part of a whole biological process and not a creepy ‘other’ that women ‘suffer from’. They’re too inconsistent to be properly funny. If they’re going to go to all that effort, they’d do better to leave out the negative messages. But I’m making sweeping generalisations. Let’s break it down. Here’s where they go wrong on their dates:
They’ve missed a trick with the tomato sauce spilling on the chef’s shirt. It figures that the first time ever there’s a red stain in a femcare ad it’s on a dude.
Then he says “I like thinness, don’t you?” Ok so body image obsessed then… Fail.
Stereotype of the do-gooder, check. Good effort. But then he says, “I hate moisture.” (Like it’s evil.) “Don’t you just hate moisture?” And then the camera…nods?
Dismissive euphemism for blood aside, if they both hate moisture, that is going to be one…chaste relationship.
Moisture? Liquid? They may have tried to appear ‘brave’ or ‘savvy’ by sticking a dude in the ad, but Stayfree doesn’t have the ovaries to use red liquid or say blood? In 2010? Either would be fine. Their version of the visual and the vocab makes menstruation disappear…in an ad for maxipads.
Finally, the killer for Ryan is when he says, “It’s not fair that you should have to experience this every month. It’s just not fair.”
I’m assuming that’s part of the parody – the middle distance stare, the reverent whisper – but the pitying tone means we’ve just been equated with homeless cats (one of the cats is named ‘Spazz’ – in England, that term is really offensive…) and disadvantaged children in our ‘inability’ to cope with menstruation. We are disadvantaged. Poor us.
Ok, feminine hygiene ad deconstruction aside, Trevor doesn’t know how to vacuum. Either that or I don’t. All I know is, if I were doing it that way, I’d wanna be doing it better, so the whole ‘here’s a man who can hoover’ thing doesn’t work. Again another stain, but this time it’s pit stains, and we’re allowed to see real pit stains. Why isn’t that blue liquid?
It’s hilarious by the way that there is a red logo on the back of his pants – I thought he had a stain on them for a minute.
Then he says, “Wow, just look at all that messy liquid. I tell ya, if I could go through this experience every month instead of you, I would.”
He thinks he’s saying he’ll menstruate. He’ll be a hero and take one for the team. What? He and Stayfree don’t seem to be aware that they’re signing him up for a whole lot more than that. He can offer to swap reproductive organs if he wants, but he may end up in it for the whole nine yards and the whole nine months, should anyone be able to take him up on that. One of main problems with femcare advertising is they literally bank on us thinking blood’s gross. But menstruation is just one small part of a much bigger reproductive process. Is he offering to get pregnant and give birth for me? Cool. It’d be nice if he were jealous and was like pining for the chance to menstruate, but he’s painting it as though he’s the saviour who can rescue us from misery.
Many women have periods that are not that bad. You just don’t hear about it because it doesn’t sell anything. No extra heavy flow pads, no super absorbent tampons and no contraceptive pills or painkillers if it’s all going fine.
Bottom line, a guy being down with periods is great, and to find that out on a first date with him is even better, but the ‘I know best’ attitude, parody or not, when combined with the blood’s ‘gross’ and ‘can’t be mentioned’ and ‘it’s such a burden to you’ is whack, and not what I’m looking for.
And finally, I tried to get in touch with the Commercial Production Association of Toronto, to ask what the statistical chances were of it being a guy behind the camera. They weren’t answering.
Everything’s just new, new, new, I think. Except for the snow. That’s getting a little old, actually, even the new snow. Bleurgh. All our travel – local and international – has been messed up. Even walking to the shop. My fleece-lined wellies have seen far more action than my t-strap maryjanes in recent weeks, and I’m cross.
EXCEPT that everything else is NEW NEW NEW. I have to keep reminding myself (and you should too) that even though the weather is being pre-post-apocalyptic, there are some cool things afoot.
The new zine issue is out, and the New Yorkers liked it. Now, I’m sorry, England. You may say that people from the US have no irony, but you clearly have not spent enough time in NYC. The Lower East Side could kick your ass with irony, and they liked the zine. So I stand by ‘the New Yorkers liked it’.
The first distro to carry it (because there was no postal system or blizzard involved) is our good friend Erin’s new distro, Things You Say.
The name’s from a Sleater-Kinney song, but also, handily, refers to the communicatey-ness (real word) of zines. Erin’s working on a new zine, and her blog, Bi-Coastal Gimps, is in the blogroll to your right, and you can read our zines blurbs on her catalogue page. Erin is also slightly addicted to Sarah’s cookies, which we discovered when we visited her over Christmas, and knows a Chinese restaurant where you can do your ordering like it’s an online catalogue. It was amazing.
We’ll post some pictures from our trip up on the facebook fanpage later in the week. You can become a fan by clicking that link on the right over there. Unless you’re reading this on your phone, in which case you’ll have to type ‘Adventures in Menstruating’ into the facebook search bar. Wow, I feel like one of those people in an infomertial or on Blues Clues where I’m referring to things on a screen that I know you know I really can’t see right now.
Stay tuned for more about our New York trip, some new work of ours, more details about upcoming events, and some new Second Place Awards we’re happy to bestow.
Happy New Year!
Props to Elissa Stein for getting her book out today! I’ll be posting a full review on the blog, but so far I can tell you it is shiny and beautiful. There’ll be an interview in the next issue of Adventures in Menstruating, coming in late December 2009.
Check out www.flowthebook.com for more info!
Wow. We had such an awesome time and such a great reception at Leeds Uni! Sarah and I feel really lucky to have been invited and can’t wait to go back next term! We got some nice audio that I’ll be putting into our first podcast episode, including the debut performance of our new song, Crimson Tide. In fact, mad props to Godot* and Cunning Stunt* for asking if their band could cover it at their next gig!
We did readings from the zines, Sarah read some comic menstrual poems, and we took along the Mobile Menstrual Zine Library as well. At the interval, we did a new craft in the style of online avatar creating games: Tampon Yourself!
Thanks specially to Oonagh and Bernie for hosting us, The Peanut Gallery for providing the venue-with-everything, Johnny for doing lots of never-before-seen (by us) technical things, Zoltan for making his Skids sketch debut, and Ryder for giving us loads of leads for our Period Positive Comp Album. We met lots of other interesting and interested people who are keen to contribute to the zine and the blog in future, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Keep track of Leeds Uni FemSoc at their blog!
*To link with our free min-zine that explores menstrual euphemisms, How Do You Feel About Your Friend?, we borrowed an idea Tina uses for her CreativeMornings over on Swissmiss. Thanks, Tina! Here are a few of the names people came up with:
I didn’t even know you could do that anymore, but Hannah Neurotica knew (biblically) a guy who can no longer enter Ohio.
That is in no way the most exciting thing about her…in fact, it may be one of the more boring things she could tell you. I was privileged enough to be allowed to babble incoherently on her radio show, and know she’d be a big fan of my menstrual zombie movie, should I ever get around to finishing it. (It’s so annoying that the title ’28 Days Later’ was already taken…)
But, as (sadly discontinued) Reading Rainbow’s LeVar Burton would say, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”
Oh yeah – depending on where you work, this might not be safe for work. It contains strong language from the start.
We’ll be there doing some live readings from Adventures in Menstruating #4. Details can be found at the website, and there’s also a facebook group.
The London Zine Symposium is a lot of fun – there are always groovy people to hang out with, sexy vegan snacks to eat (in 2007 there was vegan ‘cheese’ cake that I will never forget) and beautiful handmade and/or self-published zines and books to browse, trade for or buy.
Throughout the day there will be readings and workshops.
12-6, The Rag Factory, London.
Last week I was lucky enough to be in New York having a whale of a time over Passover and Easter. At the start of the week, I arrived at my parents’ house in NJ to find two awesome parcels waiting for me from Niku and Sage containing copies of Niku’s collage zine I’d contributed to and my cycle girl on badges made by Sage. As I was getting ready for the readings later in the week, I found out it was Joanne Morton of the FCW network’s birthday on the day of the reading, which gave me the idea to do the reading as a kind of an Adventures in Menstruating #4 launch party with goody bags, which I had great fun putting together with my best friend Matt the night before. They were little red paper bags tied with ribbon and contained a red ball and jacks, two red lollipops, and a badge among other bits and pieces and flyers. He also made a t-shirt for me with iron-on letters that spelled out ‘Menarche Now!’ – the slogan from Sarah’s story in Adventures in Menstruating #2. Toys in Babeland donated a gift set including a reusable shopping bag (which gives the bearer 10% off every future purchase), vibrator, lube, and (most importantly) batteries, and my brother got me some classy chocolate-covered matzah. It was super cool having an all-male send off for my comedy menstrual gig, actually. And thus, a party was born.
My friend James read a really sweet intro and then helped me raffle off the t-shirt and the Toys in Babeland bag to raise some money for Bluestockings, and the menstrual comedy fans were really generous. It was a great atmosphere at the reading – a really warm and enthusiastic crowd, and (since I was only there for a few days) served as a welcome and a farewell for my flying visit. I was really psyched that Microcosm’s Sparky got to NYC in time to attend because we’d never had the chance to meet in person before and she’s really friendly! Huge props to long-time supporter Jenna from Radical Reference and the Barnard Zine Library who’s attended the Bluestockings readings a few times now, and all the staff working that night for joining in and making me feel so at home.
Later that night (after a karaoke, pineapple juice and rum-themed send-off) at The Living Theatre I read some more on my own and also with a fellow baseball-loving, Doctor Who geek college pal. It seemed like a great small venue – I’d recommend it and will most likely head back there again to see other work. I met awesome people at both readings, including another woman who had a women’s health-super-hero-alter-ego, some radical teachers, and wicked cool readers who were already familiar with the zines and well-versed in the menstrual hi jinks.
The next morning I finished the triptych with a visit to the anarchist bookfair where I donated zines to the Sex Workers Outreach Project and traded some more for some vegan chocolate peanut butter cups and screenprinted speculum stencil patches. I also got chatting with lovely people visiting from Wooden Shoe Books in Philly, who were the first shop to ever carry my zine, and picked up some info from Books Through Bars, ABC No Rio, and Teaching for Change (got a book of radical lesson plans).
Zines I picked up (awesomely, all trades, actually):
For the Mobile Menstrual Zine Library:
Where Have all the Placentas Gone?
Herbal Abortion: A Woman’s DIY Guide
What Your Momma (or your doctor or your teacher or anybody) Never Told You About Your Period
I also got Dave Roche’s newest zine, About My Disappearance 2, because he’s awesome and I miss him but I hear he’s having a whale of a time in Australia right now so I can’t complain.
More details to follow on those zines as I read them.
I’ll leave you with the Bluestockings bathroom – a joy to behold with a bathroom book, artwork, lots of space, an awesome minimalist bucket sink (you’ll have to visit to see that part – it’s inspired) and, if you’re that way inclined, a hand-rolled cigarette lovingly left in the toilet-roll basket. Crazy.
I’ll post more when the ridiculously long-winded jet lag of doom wears off.
See what I did there?
I’m reading tonight at Bluestockings Bookstore, NYC, at 7 pm with the new issue of the zine. It’s all gone a bit launch party styley and there’ll be treats and goodybags with vouchers and raffle prizes.
Later tonight (at 10:40, to be exact) I’m reading at the Anarchist Bookfair’s Arts Night at The Living Theatre. Somehow I’m on the poster as simply ‘menstruation’. Not Adventures in Menstruating, not Chart Your Cycle, not Chella Quint… I am amazed and impressed that the event coordinators and poster designers consider the simple act or concept of garden variety menstruation itself enough of a draw to give it billing.
Hope to see you tonight!